Eunoia

Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”

  • J.K. Rowling

August 28th, 2016.

Remember the date. Because it’s important, and I’m going to come back to it a few paragraphs from now.

In 2015, I lost a friend to suicide. In 2016, I lost another. The passing of my friends devastated me. To lose a loved one is always a sobering experience. To lose them prematurely because of mental illness is earth-shattering. I have always believed that a family is defined by much more than biology. I consider my friends to be a band of brothers that I love so dearly that I am willing to sacrifice anything to protect them. The knowledge that two of those brothers could be so affected by mental illness that suicide became their only hope of salvation breaks my heart.

I know what it’s like to feel low. I spent years feeling angry, confused, scared and alone. And for the longest of times I never believed that I could feel any other way. I used writing to express myself, and created this website as a means of trying to work my way through the endless fog inside my head. And yet despite spending years writing endlessly about my periods of self-loathing and misery, I never actually hit rock bottom. I came close. But the people I cared about had always given me hope; they were my reason to carry on, even when I felt like giving up.

And then on August 28th, 2016, my life fractured. I lost the girl that I believed I was destined to grow old with. In doing so, I lost my happiness, and the desire to be Chris Nicholas anymore. On that day, I hit rock bottom so fucking hard that I didn’t want to write, or eat, or be anything. And then fate kicked me while I was down, taking away the certainty of printing my sophomore novel with the publisher who had produced my debut piece.

Until that day, I had envisioned a life where I would marry my partner and create a living from writing books. When I was down, or angry, the knowledge that I had a woman who loved me and a future brighter than I deserved spurred me on. Her love brought a smile to my face when the demons in my head were trying to eat my alive. So, when she left, and my battered body collided with the unbreakable surface that is rock bottom; all I could do was lay in a damaged heap and cry.

As I cried, my parents asked me if I was going to be OK. When I told them that I didn’t know, they asked me something that made the hurt I was experiencing feel so much worse. My mother and my father looked me in the eye and asked:

You’re not going to hurt yourself, are you?”

In the darkest moments of my life my parents were so concerned for my wellbeing that they were worried that I would try to harm myself, or that I would take my own life. My mental state was so fractured that they were frightened that after years of moving through cyclical battles with depression, I was going to give up.  I told them that I wouldn’t. Until that point in my life I had been petrified of death, and even though I had been down, I didn’t ever want to lose myself. But what I didn’t tell them was that in the months after my partner left me, the thought of no longer existing had crossed my mind.

Agh, shit. I’m getting all teary. This isn’t the easiest thing to talk about. So, let’s take a brief interlude for a moment. I want to clarify a few things. I don’t want your pity. I don’t want you to feel sorry for me, or to be concerned for my state of mind. August 28th, 2016 is the most important date in the history of who I am not only because it’s the day that I hit rock bottom; but also, because it’s the day that I stopped running from my demons and began learning how to overcome them. In the months that have passed since, I have used my heartbreak and devastation to build the solid foundations of a happy life. It hasn’t been easy. I have had to confront my shortcomings, and learn to love my flaws. But in doing so, I am beginning to become the man that I should have always been.

This post isn’t about me. It’s about you. And the people you care about. It’s about talking openly about suicide and mental illness, and starting a conversation by saying:

My name is Chris Nicholas, and know what it feels like to lose someone that I love to suicide. And I know what it is like to feel so worthless that the idea of no longer existing becomes a viable means of coping with pain.”

Maybe in doing so, I can encourage someone else who is going through what I did, and what my friends did, to reach out and ask for help. Maybe by sharing my lowest moments with you, I can encourage you to lend your heart and mind to someone who is trying their hardest to fight their way through the hells of a life plagued by depression, anxiety, or whatever else, giving them a reason to live when all hope is lost.

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The World Health Organisation estimates that 45% of the global population will experience mental illness of some form in their lifetime. Of those that are diagnosed with a mental disorder, a staggering two thirds will never seek professional help. When you factor in the percentage of sufferers that remain undiagnosed, and that 90% of people who take their lives experience mental illness; and that suicide ranks within the top twenty causes of death on a global scale, the need for a societal change to how we perceive suicide and mental illness becomes apparent.

The bullshit inference society has created that says that mental illness, anxiety or depression shows a weakness of character is wrong. You are not weak for feeling down. You are not alone for feeling fractured. There is no shame, stigma, or dishonour in admitting that you need help. Mental illness is a fault in your psychological makeup caused by a chemical imbalance inside of your brain that you are in no way accountable for.

Take it from someone who has stood on the precipice between life and death and found the strength to survive: it is alright to not be OK. It is alright to feel unwell; or to be angry, or scared at times. That doesn’t make you weak. It makes you human. What isn’t alright, is for our society to continue to lose so many lives to self-harm because we’re simply not doing enough to help those in need.

When I hit rock bottom I found a peace in myself that I never thought existed. Sure, falling from grace hurt. I lost someone who I had believed would love me for the rest of my life, and in doing so I lost myself. But I talked to my loved ones, and they listened with endless patience as I cried myself through the hurt and attempted to find who I was once again. Had I not have known what it was like to lose people that I love to suicide, I may never have found the courage to confide in them, and to get out of bed and face each new day.

Through conversation, my friends and family saved me. And I guarantee that if you ever find yourself feeling as low, and as worthless as I did, your loved ones will do anything in their power to help you through too. All you need to do is cast aside the stigma of mental illness and ask for help; or to offer your heart to someone you know who is going through difficult times. Once you start a conversation and remove the perception of weakness and fear that surrounds mental illness, you can find hope, compassion and love within your peers.

When I began to talk, I realised that the people around me weren’t afraid of holding a conversation about my depression. I had just been so angry for so long that they didn’t know how to approach the subject without pushing me further away.  They had been waiting for years for me to open up and tell them why I felt the way that I did. And, maybe if I had of confided in them earlier, I wouldn’t have lost as much as I did. Maybe I wouldn’t have had to hit rock bottom and start over again.

I used to be a boy who suffered from depression. I called myself a world eater and a wolf as a means of inspiring the strength within myself that I needed to keep fighting when I felt like I was falling apart. Since August 28th, 2016, I have become a man who calls himself a world eater because by doing so I can inspire strength within others when they feel as worthless as I once did. I don’t feel down anymore. I don’t feel angry. And I have just two regrets in my life. The first is that I didn’t speak out about how low I felt sooner. And the second… Well, I think that goes without saying.

To anyone who is struggling through anxiety or depression right now I would say this: It is alright to not be OK. And you are not alone for feeling broken. You’re with me; and millions of other individuals who make up the estimated 45% of people who experience mental illness in their lifetime. If you ever find yourself standing on the precipice between life and death, searching desperately for a reason to continue to live; I want you to reach out and take the hand of someone that you care about. Do what I did: cry. Cry your fucking lungs out. And when you have no tears left, talk. Let your loved ones help you find yourself once again.

If you’re not ready to talk to the people that you love; then use this page. Talk to me, or the other people who will read this post. Share yourself, and find solace in the knowledge that no matter how low you may feel, you are never alone.

Authors note: On November 17th, 2015, my friend Jason lost his battle with depression and took his own life. Since his passing, his brother Ben has been working tirelessly to raise awareness for anxiety, depression, and suicide prevention. In June of this year, Ben will be riding his bike around Australia, covering more than eighteen thousand kilometres as he attempts to encourage others to talk openly about mental health and suicide. Ben’s courage in the face of adversity and heartbreak has been a huge inspiration to me, my friends, and family. If you would like to follow Ben’s journey, or offer your support: you can find more information here at www.rideforjase.org

 

Between Birth & Death

I need a moment to compose my thoughts before we get started. This post marks a turning point in the evolution of who I am as a man, so it’s important that I try not to screw it up…

There are certain topics that cause a writer a degree of apprehension whenever he (or she) approaches them. Trying to articulate how these concepts, realities, or situations alter your perceptions, or define who you are can be daunting.  For me personally, I have always struggled to broach the subject of death. I have battled against anxiety and depression in the past, and openly acknowledging that I will eventually die used to leave me feeling petrified.

Which explains why it has been a few months since we last talked about death here at The Renegade Press.

In that time, my life has changed more than I ever imagined possible.  I’m not the man that I once was. I’m not ruled by a fear of death, or the melancholy feeling of failure. I hit rock bottom. I had my face stamped into the dirt, and my humility exposed to the world. I lost something amazing, and I crumbled. Badly. But in my lowest moments I learned that the depths of my own fortitude are endless. I beat depression, let go of my ego, and now I’m learning how to walk after a lifetime of forcing myself to crawl.

Alright. I think I’m good. Let’s do this…

I was recently told that the only certainty in life is death. At the time, I viewed the idea as a pessimistic way to look at the world. But the more that I have allowed myself to consider this notion in relation to my own life, the more I am beginning to realise that there is some truth in the sentiment. It may sound incredibly macabre to view the foundations of our reality as so fractured and unstable that our inevitable demise is the only solid platform which we have at our disposal to build a life upon. But the truth is that understanding our own humanity, and the inescapability of death allows us to grow, to be happy, and to cherish the time that we have on this earth.

Oh, yes. This is a post about death; but it comes with a twist. It’s not a depressive, or self-depreciating diatribe oozing with anxiety and fear. Instead, it’s a big fucking swing at complacency; and a way for me to stand up, beat my chest and say that I’m not afraid of dying anymore.

As a society, we continuously remind ourselves of the fragility of the human existence. We sit glued to television screens, or stream endless content when tragedy befalls our fellow man or woman. We seemingly revelling in the idea that a life can be dramatically altered, or taken away in an instant. When a loved one passes, we console one another with observations about the fragility of life, and the preciousness of the gift that we have been given. Yet, despite openly acknowledging the metamorphic nature of our existence, we still allow ourselves to try and build upon the shifting foundations of space and time, assuming certainty where there is none.

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The only certainty in life is death. So, rather than chasing dreams that can evolve or be abandoned at a moments notice, wouldn’t it make sense to establish the underpinnings of who we are on this fact, and work backwards to establish our values and beliefs? Wouldn’t it seem logical to confront the inevitability of our demise as a means of asking ourselves what it is that defines us, what we truly value, and what it would take for us to pass away with the knowledge that we have no regrets? So many people spend their entire lives desperately scrambling to find their place within a world of uncertainty and change, afraid to acknowledge that one day they will die. And that when they do, they will not be defined by the possessions they own, the job they have, or the money in their bank account.

One of the greatest failings of the modern man is that we convince ourselves over and over that the materialistic shit matters. We do so because it’s tangible. It’s a way for us to touch something we have earned, or to show it to a friend or lover and say that we have lived a successful life. It makes us feel great for a few moments to bask in the superficial. But that instant of gratification fades, and no one will ever be defined by something so shallow. When we die, we are remembered for the experiences we shared with the people we love, and the way in which we brightened the lives of those around us. I know that probably sounds like a bunch of contrived bullshit penned by a hopeless romantic. So, let me put it like this…

…When I die, I want to look back on my life and know that I achieved the things that mattered most to me. I want to be able to say that I was loved; and that I loved unconditionally. I want to know how wonderful it feels to be someone’s father, brother, son, lover, friend, enemy, and entire world. I want to be shaped by the experiences that I have lived through, both good and bad. And I want to be able to say that I have had a positive impact on the world around me.

I would like a few other things too. It would be great to say that I wrote a best seller, or that I earned enough money to live comfortably without the fear of financial ruin. I’d like to have owned a fancy car too. Who wouldn’t? But if I had the choice between owning a Lamborghini or holding my newborn child in my arms for the very first time; the car would become meaningless in an instant. There’s a reason that people talk about money, cars, and possessions as dreams.  They are something to aspire to; but they’re not a necessity. Love and happiness are. They are the framework of a life well lived. Without possessions, you can still live an amazing life. Without love and happiness; you’re going to be fucking miserable.

When my life fell apart I realised how often I was sacrificing my own happiness to focus my attention on trivial and incidental shit. It became apparent that my pursuit of perfection and possessions was exacerbating my fear of death because I was subconsciously creating a life governed by anxiety. I had lost sight of what really mattered most. And as I looked around at my friends and family I realised that I wasn’t alone in my mistakes.

I saw couples who I knew were madly in love growing apart as they pushed themselves to buy a bigger car, or a better home, rather than allowing their love to blossom simply by acknowledging that they already had everything they could ever need within each other. I saw strangers sitting in silence at bus stops, their eyes fixated on mobile devices; desperate to feel connected to something or someone, but too afraid to share a moment of intimacy or awkwardness with the person sitting right beside them. And I saw that so many people were lost and afraid because they felt like they had no purpose. When all they needed to do to find themselves was to accept that one day they will die, and then work backwards to understand what mattered most to them in that space between birth and death.

This post is a swing at complacency, because that is exactly what we as a society have become. We are so complacent in ourselves that we take the people and experiences that matter most for granted; failing to realise that possessions, followers, or moments on instant gratification don’t equate to happiness. We’re neglecting to acknowledge that we are shaped and defined by the moments we share with our loved ones, and the way in which we touch the hearts and minds of the people we meet.  We feel contentment in community, and experience true joy through love. So, don’t be complacent. Don’t make the mistake of focusing on the trivial and neglecting to nurture yourself. Accept that one day you will die, figure to what it is that matters in your life, and make the most of the time that you have while you still can.

If you love someone; show them. If you have a child; hold their hand and teach them to grow. Cherish every moment, opportunity and experience that you have between birth and death. Because even something as certain as our inevitable demise is uncertain in its timing and deliverance.

World Eater Shares Life, Writing, and Why the World Isn’t Eating Him Anymore [Q&A]

A few weeks ago I was fortunate enough to catch up with Franki from Hamline University’s Lit Link for a conversation about life and writing.

It has been a little while since I had participated in a formalised interview, and I had forgotten just how much fun it is to really reflect on who I am, what I have achieved, and what it is that I want in my life.

If you have a few minutes to spare, you can read the interview in its entirety below.

Hamline Lit Link

This is a Q&A with Chris Nicholas. Chris Nicholas is a twenty-eight-year-old author and blogger from Brisbane, Australia. With over a decade of writing experience, Chris won his first writing competition in 2011, appearing as the winner and panellist of the Heading Northing Young Writers Competition at the Byron Bay Writers Festival. Since the event, he has entered numerous competitions (with varying degrees of success), had works featured on websites throughout America and Europe, run a weblog, published his debut novel, and completed a manuscript for his sophomore release.

How did you first get into writing?

I started writing in my final year of high school. I was seventeen at the time and should have been studying for my final exams, but every time I sat down at my desk to study I would suddenly find myself absentmindedly creating character profiles, plot points and endless pages of horribly punctuated stories.

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Worth Fighting For…

“It doesn’t matter if you fall down; get the fuck back up.”

  • James ‘Buddy’ Nielsen

I have always viewed each post on this site as a chapter in my life. Once a piece is written and published, I move on to the next, making a conscious effort not to look back at the works that I have already completed. But over the past five months I have been moving through a period of introspection, confronting myself with the darker aspects of my personality, and forcing myself to read through the chapters of my life that I have transcribed and shared with the world.

During my readings, I stumbled across a post called Bellicose; a piece in which I likened my own life and creative evolution to boxing. At the time, I thought that I had been through some shit; I believed that life had knocked me down and that I had learned what it took to get back up. But I was wrong. I had never even stepped into the goddamn ring. I was just a mouthy boy who thought that revelling in pain would ultimately make me a stronger man. I was forcing myself to be bitter and angry for the sake of art, and in doing so I altered my reality by opening my heart to hate and shutting out the opinions, thoughts and feelings of others.

But a few months ago, life really did knock me out. In the space of a month I split from the woman I want to marry, and learned that the sophomore novel I had spent over a year creating would no longer be put into print via the publishing house that produced Midas. At the time, I was a mess. I have never felt as low as a did when my lover walked out on me; I cried myself to sleep for weeks, and felt a pain inside of my chest that hurt worse than anything I had ever felt.

Losing my lover was a right hook that blurred my vision and saw my knees buckle; losing the publishing deal was the left jab that sent me crashing to the floor where I lay dazed and confused, staring at the ceiling wondering how the hell my entire world had just fallen apart.

At first the answers to the questions I asked of myself were difficult to come by. Self-analysis can be a horribly confronting experience, and something had broken inside of me. But as I lay motionless on the floor of my bedroom staring at the ceiling through teary eyes, I began to realise that despite spending years forcing myself to feel pain, I had never allowed myself the opportunity to learn from my experiences. I was still the same emotionally fragile boy that began writing in his room at the age of seventeen, I was just hiding behind a moniker of a wolf because I was afraid of becoming the man that I should have always been.

I used anger to shield myself from the world, and in doing so I lost the most important person in mine. When she left, my heart fractured into a million pieces and I fell harder than I ever thought possible. But I eventually picked myself up off the floor, stared at my reflection in the mirror, opened my heart and mind, and allowed myself to learn from the pain of loss. When I did so I realised that for 27 years I had ignored my own wellbeing and left my soul to wander on its own in search of fulfilment while filling my head with anger, angst and bullshit.

Alright. Let’s take a quick interlude and allow the self-pity that seems to be bubbling to the surface to fade. Because this post isn’t about me. It’s about you, and the people around you; and it’s about a metamorphosis of the mind that will prevent you from feeling the pain that I had to endure in order to discover who I really am. When my lover left me, my heart wasn’t the only thing that broke; my ego did too, and while the first hurts like hell, the liberation that has come from losing the later has changed my life.

This post is about not allowing your soul to wander searching for fulfilment. It’s about taking a moment to slow down and ask yourself what it is that your soul is yearning for, what your heart desires, and what your dreams in their purest forms consist of. This post is a means of saying that only fools wait until life knocks them flat on their back to realise what it is that truly matters to them.

For me personally, my soul has wandered for 27 years in search of happiness. Sadly, that happiness has always been right in front of me; I was just too caught up in my own self-loathing to see it. But after losing everything and having to rise to my feet once again, I can say that from this moment forward there are only three things in this world that matter to me; and I vow to never allow my soul to wander in search of them again. Those three things are my happiness, my family, and the woman who taught me what it means to fall hopelessly in love.

Expressing gratitude for the first two is simple. Happiness is a choice; life is a gift that should be celebrated every goddamn day, and even the darker moments that we experience are opportunities to grow. If I hadn’t of hit rock bottom, I might never have learned what it is to be a man, or how to pick myself up off the ground when life knocked me down.

My family have stood by me and loved me since the day I was born, and now that I’m becoming a man, I can be there to help them when they fall, just as they have with me. I’m making a conscious effort to show them that I love them at every opportunity, because as wonderful as life is, it can change in a heartbeat, and I don’t want to them to ever doubt that I care.

And then there’s the girl… I don’t know if I’ll get my happily ever after with her. I probably won’t. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t love her unconditionally and cherish the wonderful moments that we spent together. I gave my heart to my her the very first time that we met, and it’s hers to keep until we both grow old and wrinkly. I would love to become her husband one day, and be the man who cares for her when she is sick, holds her hand, or kisses her head while she falls asleep. But even if I never get the opportunity to be that man, I know that a small piece of our souls will be intertwined for the rest of our lives.

OK. Here we go… Here comes the part that’s all about you and those you care about. I’ve shared my vulnerability with the world, and now it’s your turn to do the same. 

Are you ready?

Every holiday season people across the globe usher in the new year by creating resolutions: promises to themselves and their friends to focus on self-improvement in some small way. But those resolutions are quickly forgotten as the reality of our daily lives makes us forget what it is that we are trying to improve within ourselves. So, this year I want you to try something different. I want you to abandon the notion of a resolution, and make a promise to yourself, and to your loved ones instead. Promise that you will no longer allow your soul to wander in search of whatever it is that it yearns for. It doesn’t matter whether you are searching for a partner, a career, a family, an experience, or just to rediscover the smile that you’ve misplaced. Promise yourself, and those around you that you’ll discover what it is that makes your heart beat, and your soul complete, and chase it down with everything that you have got.

At the bottom of this post you’ll find an image that I urge you to take and share with the people you care about. Complete the sentence and tell them what it is that your soul desires. Open your heart and tell them what matters to you, and share your aspirations with them. And then ask them to share their hopes and dreams with you. Help each other strive towards your dreams and become the change you wish to see in the world. Don’t waste another holiday season creating a resolution that fades; create a conversation and a goal to make your dreams your reality instead.

And if you are someone who has been knocked down by life, and haven’t figured out how to get back up; consider this post a helping hand reaching out to you. Get up off the floor and figure out what your soul is searching to find, and then start building a life that is worth fighting for.

Life is a beautiful gift. Celebrate it, and cherish every single day.

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Remembered for Something

“We have been to the moon, we have charted the depths of the ocean and the heart of the atom, but we have a fear of looking inward to ourselves because we sense that is where all the contradictions flow together.”

-Terence McKenna

It’s no secret that I have been struggling to write lately. Over the past few months the aggressive creativity that usually floods my mind has dissipated and become more of a slow leak than a torrent. Despite my absence of inspiration I have persevered as best as I can, producing a handful of blog entries, and fleshing out the admittedly shaky blueprints for two separate novels. At first I thought that this writer’s block was stemming from a sense of nostalgia as I finalised one manuscript and began to transition into the next. But it turns out that I was wrong. My inability to write had nothing to do with nostalgia; I have been suffering from writer’s block because at some point in the editing process of War I lost sight of who I was, and why I was writing in the first place.

It happened far easier than it should have too. See, I have always had this theory that there are two types of people in this world. There are those who want to be famous for nothing; and those who want to be remembered for something. Despite devoting my life, and my career to becoming the later, I have increasingly found myself slipping into the idiotic mindset of longing to be renowned and celebrated for what I do.

The humbleness that keeps this wolf grounded vanished, only to be replaced with an insatiable desire to fuel my own self worth. I sold out and became a fucking fake who was more concerned with the idea of being famous than being true to who I really am.  

When I finished the first draft of my sophomore novel I sat back in my chair and looked at the rough outline of a manuscript that I had created and found myself setting benchmarks to achieve. I knew that I had created a story that left my original novel Midas for dead. I had taken my protagonist and dragged him through hell; crafting scenes that I as a consumer of literature would love to read. So I set myself a goal: I wanted this novel to outsell the first. I wanted to improve upon my first efforts as a published author and continue to establish myself within the creative industries.

The plan was solid. But my ego allowed my creative mind to manipulate my aspirations and turn them into something horrible. Within days my benchmark wasn’t merely to outdo myself; it was to outdo everyone. My humble desire to grow as a man became an urge to look down upon others from a throne of literary success. I didn’t give a shit about whether or not people enjoyed reading my novel. My only concern was that they paid for a copy and I became illustrious in my success. And in that shift of mindsets from seeking personal achievement and remembrance from my peers, to desiring fame for the purpose of fame, I created a contradiction within my own microcosm that fractured everything that I stood for as a writer and killed my creativity.

When I started blogging the idea of securing an audience as large as I have been fortunate enough to amass had never even crossed my mind. I wrote to clear my head, to fight my demons, and to try and leave the world in a better state than when I found it. And yet just four years later my minor successes had momentarily gone to my head. Armed with a freshly produced manuscript and a head full of outlandish thoughts, I started reaching out to some of the largest public relations agencies in the country requesting professional representations for my talents.

The first two companies shot me down quickly, delivering generic rejection letters and emphatically stating that they do not review their original decisions. But a representative from the third agency provided me with a much needed reality check, composing an email that read:

“You need to realise that you’re an indie author. You’re not writing to sell products or to find fame. You’re writing because you have a story that you want to tell. Unfortunately it is because of this that it doesn’t matter how well you write; to an agency like mine, you have no marketability as a writer ”

The words hit me like a fist in the pit of the stomach, causing me to gasp in horror at what I had just read. I had spent months creatively frustrated as I pursued this bullshit concept of notoriety and fame. And then this stranger took one look at my work and found the contradiction inside of me that was causing my intellectual exacerbation and clouding my judgement. I have become so used to calling myself a world eater and a wolf that I temporarily lost the ability to know when my desire to write was causing me to bare my fangs and pursue goals that ran incongruously to who I really am.

Thanks to the brutally honest words of a stranger I now realise just how easily I could have identified the place inside of my head where the inconsistencies in my rational were flowing together and causing me pain. If I had stopped focusing on chartering oceans swelling with my own delusions of grandeur, or examining the heart of my writing, I could have looked introspectively inward and found where the contradictions of who I am, and my foolish desire to be famous for nothing were causing my artistic blockage.

Today is the first time in months that I have sat down at my laptop and felt like me again. I haven’t continued blogging at The Renegade Press for the past four years because of a yearning to be revered. I have done so because I have fallen in love with sharing myself with the world and touching the lives of strangers; however briefly that may be. I blog because I would rather be remembered for something than famous for nothing.

The next time that I lose sight of who I am, I will remember to take a look inside of myself and remove the contradictions causing me pain, so that my creativity can flow once again.

Introspection & Loss

I recently celebrated my fourth anniversary of blogging here at The Renegade Press. As with the three anniversaries prior to this one, the moment was a bitter-sweet affair of pride and introspection. Blogging has become a passion, and a source of endless pleasure that I approach with great reverence as I attempt to pour my heart and soul into everything that I create. But it hasn’t always been this way. This website was born out of a need to find myself, and to overcome my own internal torment. Four years ago I was emotionally shattered, creatively stunted, and questioning the validity of my own existence as I battled my own private demons. I was lost inside my head, desperately searching for a purpose amongst an endless torrent of fractured, self-depreciating thoughts.

Thankfully I found that purpose; and I found myself through my writing. With each new post that I create I learn more about myself and the world than I ever thought possible. Writing is continuously helping me to become a man of tolerance, compassion, loyalty and fierce determination. But perhaps the greatest lesson that I have learned in the past four years is that the conversations that seem the hardest to have are oftentimes the ones that are most important.

In November 2015 I lost a friend to suicide. This month I lost another. For a man as petrified of death as I am, it can be incredibly confronting to lose a friend or family member. To have to accept the fragility of their morality, as well as my own scares me. To lose them to mental illness, the very affliction that pushed me into blogging in the first place, opens a chasm of sadness inside of my soul that will forever haunt me.

Recent studies compiled by the World Health Organisation suggest that global suicide rates have risen by sixty percent over the past forty-five years. This violent spike means that suicide is now one of the three leading causes of death for males and females aged 15-44. This statistic alone is staggering. When you then take a moment to consider that ninety percent of suicides worldwide can be attributed, or associated to mental health, a picture of sadness and vulnerability begins to take shape. There is a flaw in the manner in which we approach mental health and suicide. We are losing so many friends and family members prematurely.

That flaw is startlingly simple: we as a society are not communicating effectively enough about mental health and illness. Sure, people are more open to talking about suicide and depression than ever before. There is an abundance of mental health initiatives across the globe providing people with the support to overcome their own turmoil. But as a society we’re still not communicating. If we were, those organisations that are desperately trying to help strangers find beauty and meaning in their lives, or fighting valiantly to empower the vulnerable to face one more day, wouldn’t be struggling to prevent global suicide rates from reaching epidemic proportions.

OK. I want to stop for a moment and double back over that last comment and try and break it down a little. There was a linguistic sleight of hand in the preceding paragraph that may, or may not have found its mark. But it has to. I need you to understand where this flaw in our approach to mental health and suicide stems from. People are talking; or at least they are more willing to do so. And yet no one is communicating. What we are hearing when we talk to one another is the fake sound of progress. God, I hope that makes sense.

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Talking and communication are two very different things. Talking is typically defined as the oral projection of one’s voice. Whereas communication is imparting, exchanging, and receiving information through a variety of means. Communication is listening, watching, comforting, and talking when needed. Organisations can talk to sufferers of mental illness and try to create and stimulate change. But we as individuals can communicate with them. We can hold their hand when they need a friend, or lend an ear when they want to talk.  We can tear apart the idea that mental illness is something to be ashamed of and instead create a culture of support and understanding that praises someone for having the courage to seek help.

As someone who has suffered from depression and anxiety, I know how difficult it can be to admit that you are struggling. I know the crushing feeling of despair that settles into the back of your mind and pushes down on your chest until you feel as though you are drowning underneath a sea of hopelessness. But thanks to blogging, I also know the feeling of release that comes with being able to open your heart and mind and communicate with your peers. There is no shame in admitting that you are vulnerable, depressed, or alone.

Mental illness is claiming far too many lives, and for me personally, it has taken too many wonderful people away from me far too soon. While I adore and admire the hardworking organisations that fight valiantly to save lives, I believe that we as individuals can have a far greater impact. We can start having conversations that might seem uncomfortable, or difficult to broach at first. We can stop turning a blind eye when we see a friend, or stranger struggling.  We can give those in need an ear to talk to, or a hand to hold, instead of a cold shoulder and a diverted glance. And maybe in doing so we can stop people from feeling so fucking alone, or depressed, or broken that suicide becomes their only answer.

In my lowest moments it was the kindness of strangers who stopped by a shitty little blog originally called Chris Nicholas Writes that became the catalyst I needed to confront my sadness and find myself once again. To know that my friends were not so fortunate as to find the inner peace that I did brings me to tears. If my only accomplishment as a writer is to inspire someone, somewhere to communicate; to speak and to listen about mental health, anxiety and depression, I’ll die a happy man.

The Construct of Time

Time is just an agreed upon construct. We have taken distance (one rotation of the earth, and one orbit of the sun) divided it up into segments, then given those segments labels.

-Author Unknown

Before man decided to differentiate between the periods when the sun had risen, and when the moon had taken its place, there was no such thing as time. Before days, hours, and minutes ever existed there were merely rotations of the earth that brought about phases of light, and periods of darkness. But our quest for intellectual enlightenment, coupled with human curiosity urged mankind to quantify and label the earth’s rotations.

Early Egyptians divided the day into two twelve hour periods, erecting huge obelisks that rose into the sky, allowing them to use shadows to track the sun’s movements. The Greeks and Persians used water clocks called clepsydra. And Plato even went as far as to develop one of the first alarm clocks utilising water, lead balls, and a columnar vat. This creation of the clock bought with it acceptance of time and structure. The periods of light and darkness were broken down into days, hours, minutes, and seconds.

Nowadays we have wrist watches, stereos, smartphones, and numerous other devices that act as clocks. We live according to the sexagesimal numerical system established by ancient Sumerians; measuring our lives down to the nearest second, believing that time is one of the most precious commodities that one can amass.

I for one, constantly tell myself that I need more time. I convince myself that if I could just find extra hours in the day I could write more, or make a better effort to see my friends and family, or be healthier. On the surface these grievances with my insufficiency of time seem justified. I’m a busy man. I work, I run a website, I write novels, and attend university. On top of that I have to maintain my health and fitness, spend time with my partner, and so on.

But those grievances are nothing more than excuses. Time is a creation of man. It isn’t, nor was it ever intended to be our ruler.

I recently attended a seminar where the lecturer stated that within every adult is a child, and in the heart of that child lays an unanswered question, or questions. They are the compulsions that drive us, the insecurities that cause us to lose sleep at night, and the reason we hide behind excuses like time. These questions claw at our subconscious during moments of high tension and cause the fragility of our ego to rear its ugly head. We ask ourselves about our own importance, or question our safety, or query the significance of our very existence.

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But because our minds are not programed to interpret and quantify such harrowing questions, their manifestation is interpreted by our brains as fear. We fear failure, embarrassment, uncertainty, success, and a million other things. But our ego prevents us from acknowledging that we are insecure, vulnerable, and afraid. While we wish that we could tell ourselves and others that we are struggling, we refuse to accept our own weaknesses. We blame our failure to launch, or our refusal to extend ourselves beyond our reach on bullshit excuses like time.

When you cast some objectivity on our willingness to limit our own potentials and refusal to acknowledge the unanswered questions of our innermost self, it seems ludicrous that we so often choose to hide behind a construct that started with obelisks and clepsydras. And yet, people do it every day. I do it every day. I tell myself that I am too busy to relax with my partner, or to see friends, or that I don’t have enough time to stop and enjoy life.

At times this foolish notion that I can’t squeeze anything more into my days leaves me frustrated and ashamed. I look at the lives of others who are spending their time with family, or writers that don’t need to work as hard as I do to survive and it makes me bitter. I have been known to cuss out strangers before, believing that their lives are easier than mine, because they have more time than I do. But the truth is that they don’t. It is illogical to think that these strangers have somehow found a way to defy science and create more hours in their day than I have in mine.

The reason that I look at these people who have seemingly made it in comparison to me with such loathing, is that despite all of my successes as a writer and a man, I’m still petrified of failure. I have devoted years to writing manuscripts and blogs, and at times it has felt as though I am on the verge of creating a career through literature. Yet I’ve never quite managed to become the massive success that every artist dreams of becoming.

My unanswered question forces me to continuously ask if I am good enough, and how it would feel to fail. When panic and self-doubt starts clawing at my subconscious and undermining my confidence, I play the time card. I tell myself that I am too busy to fully embrace my dreams and become the man I have always dreamed of becoming.

The truth is that at age 27, time is still my friend. I have already come a long way from the emotionally fragile man that created this weblog four years ago. When I started blogging I had a list of unanswered questions and insecurities a mile long, but through writing I have managed to discover the answers to many of them. I’m no longer afraid of accepting my vulnerabilities, nor am I afraid of exposing heart and mind to the world. There are posts on this website that I wrote with a smile on my face, and there are many that I wrote with tears running down my cheeks.

Nowadays my list of unanswered questions has been whittled down to the two entries mentioned above. I ask myself am I good enough to be positioned alongside the literary elite? And am I willing to strive so hard for my dreams that I am prepared to risk spectacular failure? When these questions cause me to doubt myself I still tend to shield myself from heartache by saying that my busy schedule and lack of time is holding me back.

But using time as a means to avoid your unanswered questions will ultimately leave you feeling unfulfilled. The construct born through the creation of obelisks and clepsydras should never stop anyone from achieving their dreams. For me personally, when I hear myself use this act of deference to protect myself I need to be conscious of what is really causing me pain. Am I really complaining about a lack of hours in the day? Or do I need to dig a little deeper and confront the fear of failure that is really holding me back?

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Humanism & Violence

One of the greatest curses of being a writer is that I can never accept anything at face value. I can’t read a news article about a war in a foreign land and blindly accept that my Government’s reasons for doing battle are all morally righteous. I can’t palate bullshit television shows about strangers who are married at first sight, or appreciate subpar art created for the soul purpose of marketing and product distribution. And I especially cannot tolerate, nor accept the mindset of fucking cowards who hide behind their religion or creed to spread messages of hate or fulfill selfish agendas.

Oh yes…It’s been a little while since we’ve tackled religion here on The Renegade Press. I’ve had a brief reprieve from having my face plastered across religious websites where they label me as a monster or a heathen for promoting tolerance. It’s about time that I give the close-minded another reason to vilify my work.

A religion is a set of philosophies concerning the nature, cause, and purpose of the universe. These beliefs are governed by a moral code, and include upon other things, ritual and devotional observances. Yet while we typically equate the concept of faith with a God; religion need not include a divine entity in the skies above, or buried in the earth below.

For some, their religion is science, or literature, economics, family, or any number of other credence. One of the most disheartening statements that any man or woman can make is to say that they are not religious by nature; because in doing so they are stating that they believe in nothing. And to believe in nothing is to live an existence so hollow that one can only imagine the depths of their loneliness.

But that’s enough of the fancy introductions. Let’s cut to the chase and get to the crux of what this article is meant to be about. Despite my sincere belief that the concept of faith encompasses far more than gods and deities, for the purpose of this post I am focusing primarily on society’s conventional definition of religion and taking a swipe at men and women who use their god(s) as a means of justifying their own bloodlust.

Contrary to popular belief there is not a religion on the face of this earth that wishes for its disciples to bring harm upon another being. The easy target when trying to debunk this statement in our current geopolitical climate of fear and hostility would be to target the Islamic faith. Every single day the media bombards us with stories of attacks against non-Muslims by militant forces and lone wolves. By simply watching the evening news one could easily become convinced that these entities are waging a Jihad against the western world. We are told that we are being drawn into a holy war based on ideology and extremism. And yet the word jihad has absolutely nothing to do with warfare.

In a purely linguistic sense, jihad means to struggle, or to strive. It is the practice of religion in the face of persecution and oppression; the idea of military effort and the often misquoted concept of spreading the word of Islam by sword is referenced as a means of last resort in the Quran. When we consider the manner in which western media often treats the Muslim faith, this definition of devotion in the face of adversity says more about the fortitude of the observer than it does about extremism and bloodlust.

So how is it that society has come to equate an idea of serving one’s beliefs in the face of ignorance and bigotry as extreme? Well, it’s simply a result of a few bad eggs tarnishing the name of a faith that has led us to see evil where there is none. The Quran explicitly forbids Muslims from instigating hostilities, indulging in acts of aggression, violating the rights of another human being, or harming the innocent.

When you see an act of aggression carried out in the name of Islam on the evening news, it has nothing to do with faith or religion. It’s a malicious deed committed by a morally devoid piece of shit who chooses to use a misunderstood culture as a scapegoat for their own wicked urges.

Any man or woman who thinks that their religion or their God wishes for them to harm another human being, or to inspire terror in their fellow man is a bottom feeder. Any person who believes that the best way to spread their ideology is through aggression and force, be they a Muslim, Christian, Police Officer, Politician or whatever else is not only misguided, but fundamentally and morally damaged. To judge the value of someone’s life based on their color or creed is sickening. And to target the innocent because of an ethical or political grievance you have with their country or government is the deplorable actions of a fucking pussy.

Oh shit. Did Chris just call out a bunch of overzealous religious crusaders and lend an olive branch of tolerance to a religious ideology that he has no ties to?

You better believe that I did. After spending the better part of twenty-seven years trying to understand my own religious compulsions I am coming to the realization that I am a humanist. My religion celebrates men, women, and children, valuing them based on their individual characteristics and not dogma and petty superstition.

I refuse to pigeonhole people based on their spirituality and faith. Instead I judge an individual based on their willingness to be selfless and provide benefit to the lives of their fellow man without expecting something in return. If you are a bigot, a cheat, or a liar, what faith you subscribe to has no relevance in my distaste for you. Likewise if you are an honest, caring, and compassionate human being; your creed won’t influence my admiration of the positivity of your traits.

As a humanist I deplore closed minds and struggle to associate with people who are unwilling to accept another belief structure simply because they don’t take the time to educate themselves and understand it. There is no such thing as a violent religion. But there are violent people who misconstrue their own faith and take what is supposed to be an understanding of the universe and turn it into cause for warfare.

Jihad is not a holy war. Hatred is not a viable future for mankind. And violence is portrayed by the bitter angels of our nature. Whether you choose to agree with me or not, the truth is that only a coward would dare maim another in the name of their religion.

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The Liberation of Lambs

‘Liberty for wolves is death to the lambs.’

            -Isiah Berlin

People often speak in similes and metaphors. We find comfort in symbolism and allegories, creating a sense of spatial separation in our minds from that which we desire and those that haunt us. Business men refer to themselves as lions when they wish to appear dominant or king-like; school children degrade one another by calling their peers a chicken, a dog, or a pussy. And a person of low morals can often be labelled as a rat or a snake.

Even free thinkers are not exempt from this kind of hackneyed pigeonholing of their peers; labelling those that they consider to be mindless drones suckling on the bosom of society as lambs or sheep.

It’s no coincidence that we choose animals to explain or understand our behaviours either. After all, we are merely another creature that rose from the primordial depths and evolved into the beings we are today. Though we may try to deny it, we are primitive creatures trying valiantly to adapt to a world that is developing at an ever-increasing rate before our very eyes.

In today’s modern society, with its abundance of threats (both perceived and legitimate), relating how we feel about ourselves, or how we perceive others to animals recognised as being courageous, dastardly, or cowardly, allows our brains to easily establish opinions about who to fear, and who to trust.

This act of association allows us to pursue other ventures such as art, education, business, and romance. While this may can seem like an intelligent concept; free your mind of primitive tasks to focus on modern obsessions, it is in fact fraught with risk. Why you ask? Because that thing you call an imagination; that beautiful part of the brain that allows us to dream, also causes us to fear.

Hmm. Now that there’s a little perspective around what I’m about to say next; it’s time to hit them with the sucker punch. Let me shake out my hands for a second and stretch out my wrists. Here it comes…

You’re not a lion. You’re not a dog, or a rat, a pussy, or a fucking snake. But you are a lamb. And you are surrounded by sheep. Whether you want to admit it or not, you are afraid to be the best version of you that you could possibly be. Why? Because you have been conditioned to see the weakness where there is strength, and convinced that the art of survival lies in finding safety in numbers. The great shepherds of society have created an illusion of fear that keeps you suppressed and afraid to be an individual, rather than one of many.

It’s not difficult to do this either. It’s been happening since the birth of mankind. Society is defined as an aggregate of people who function in an orderly community. What better example is there of societal order than a shepherd controlling a flock? What greater illustration of mental suppression and conditioning than a small few influencing the actions of the many? Moving them through a mundane existence and uniformity before they are finally led to the slaughter.

Controversial? Maybe. Reality? You better believe it. But we’re not quite done yet. 

Here’s the kicker: You are the shepherd of those around you; just as much as they are the shepherds that keep your own thoughts, feelings and actions in check. Our desire to be socially accepted and valued means that we are consistently watching over one another to ensure that we are subduing those that threaten to move incongruously to the flock, whilst simultaneously striving to do so ourselves.

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We look at those who are strong and independent as threats: wolves at the door that should be feared. And we look at those beneath us as lambs who long to be led. Lambs and sheep are instinctively fearful creatures who thrive off of social awareness. They are placated when they can see the rest of their flock and are afraid when they are forced to stand alone. When we view one another in such a way, anxiety plucks at our heartstrings and inhibits us from being all that we can be. We condition ourselves to feel discontented if we lose sight of our peers, so we shepherd and we suppress.

Inversely, a wolf is a highly intelligent, fiercely loyal beast with a desire for freedom and faith in its own instincts. They roam in packs, but are comfortable in their ability to hunt alone. These are characteristics that any collective of individuals should aspire to, not quash. And yet our imaginations; the very thing that affords us the opportunity to think, feel and act, convinces us to fear a strength that we fail to acknowledge is within all of us.

Imagine if you will, a society where individuals didn’t feel the need to play shepherd over their peers. Where instead of devoting attention to watching over one another in fear of the successes of friends and strangers, we instead focused on developing and inspiring the characteristics of loyalty, intelligence, and the desire to be free within ourselves. Imagine the emancipation from an anxiety-fuelled societal philosophy as we celebrate the successes and positive attributes of others, rather than focusing on reigning them in so that we can feel a sense of control and security as we watch over our flock.

For some readers this idea is going to sound like a bunch of contrived bullshit. They’ll screw up their nose and say that a society of wolves is dangerous. They’ll argue that we equate the wolf with fear for a reason, and that we are better off as lambs and sheep. But they are wrong. They really, really, are.

I opened this post with the quote liberty for wolves is death to the lambs, and I pray with all my heart that the mindset of lambs does die within our society. It needs to. There are so many brilliantly talented people living out their lives denying themselves of the opportunity to be great because they are fearful of standing out from the flock. We have created a bizarre culture where fitting in is more important than embracing oneself.

And yet, just as sheep and lambs move in flocks, so to do wolves move in packs. The difference between the two is that the latter move according to their own whim, not at the direction of others. They move with a pride and a purpose that the lambs of the world will never understand.

Our minds are faculties of consciousness and thought that enable us to experience the world around us. But the imagination can play tricks on us. It can convince us that we are small when we are powerful beyond all measure. And it can allow us to believe that we wish to be lambs, when we would be so much stronger as a pack of wolves. Intelligence, loyalty, and a desire to be free are traits to be revered, not abhorred.

Clichés & City Lights

 

Sometimes as a writer you can’t help but feel as though your very existence is a clichéd hybrid of all those who have come before you.  You write about feeling like an outcast, both revelling in, and despising the idiosyncrasies that form the microcosm of you. You are volatile, temperamental, a deep thinker, quirky, a workhorse, a masochist, and about a million other things. You yearn to be accepted, yet when those moments of companionship with your fellow man arrive, your anxiety craves independence. You write to fight demons, to understand the world, to question the illogical and voice an opinion that needs to be heard.

You write because you are different. Yet by doing so you prove that you are ultimately the same as almost every great writer throughout history. You’re still a minority, and you deserve to be celebrated as such. But the eccentricities that define you are a collection of all those brilliant authors whose works inspired you to create and compose in the first place.

You’re nodding your head; yet you’re sceptical about where this is heading. I don’t blame you. Those opening two paragraphs are nonsensical bullshit written by an author trying to astound and astonish with his philosophical thoughts and linguistic repertoire. But, as always, there is a point to this. I promise. 

I have a confession to make. Just like literary heavyweights such as Hemmingway, Capote, Wilde, and countless others, I tend to spend a lot of time in bars.  The great Ernest Hemmingway once declared that he drank “to make other people more interesting.” While I haven’t quite reached that level of disinterest in the people around me, the truth is that actually I fit into a lot of the categories outlined above. I’m temperamental, an emotional masochist, and a deep thinker that yearns to be accepted yet thrives off of being alone.

But perhaps one of the most clichéd tendencies that I have developed throughout my life as a writer is a genuine love for the social setting of bars. While I often feel isolated and alone in this world, there is an undeniable allure to dingy dive-bars and poorly lit nightclubs that I can’t deny. The combination of people, music, and liquor, leaves me captivated. It’s not necessarily that I have a desire to drink myself into a stupor either; I could whittle away hours watching strangers hang their hopes and dreams on relationships and interactions forged on a cocktail of inebriation and camaraderie. A bar is such a unique societal backdrop that brings together men and women from various colours, creeds, socio-political, and economic backgrounds, creating a melting pot of humanity and raw human emotion that any writer would find intriguing.

I know that it must shock readers to hear that a writer finds solace in bars and nightclubs, in fact, I can imagine a few readers furrowing their brows right now. How could someone ever be drawn to such a place? Yet if it wasn’t for this love affliction with lady liquor, I never would have found the window.

There’s a window? For a moment you thought this was just about liquor and inebriation didn’t you? You thought that I was going to wrap this up by saying that I have my infatuation with the nightlife under control and that all is well in the world. But alas, there’s more to this story than you thought!

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It’s midnight. I’m in a bar with my family and closest friends. I excuse myself and walk towards the bathroom, cutting down a narrow passage beside the counter, moving past the kitchen where chefs cuss at one another over open grills as flames lick towards the ceiling. The passage continues, until I reach a single door with a sign signalling a unisex bathroom pinned haphazardly against it. I push open the door and step into a cubicle roughly the size of an airplane bathroom. There’s a toilet, a hand basin, and the tell tale smell of a public restroom. The hygiene is questionable at best; grime clings to every surface like a thin layer of film. But despite the cubicle’s terrible state, there’s also a window.

It’s roughly the size of a shoebox, and looks as though it were never meant to be more than a small section of wall removed at eyelevel to provide a source of ventilation within the cramped space. But through that window is the most beautiful view of the city that I have ever seen. The moon sits above a sprawling metropolis of lights, illuminating the city in an ambient glow. Buildings rise from the earth and form streets and suburbs, providing shelter for the millions that live within their walls. I’m supposed to be quick. There’s a line of people waiting for me to finish, but I am so captivated by the thought that there are people I have never met moving through their own existence somewhere in that sea of lights that I can’t move. Here I am standing in a dingy public restroom staring out at the cityscape feeling a sense of hope coursing through my veins.

I am incredibly hard on myself. In addition to afflictions with night clubs, being temperamental, and longing for camaraderie whilst simultaneously yearning to be an individual, I have a proclivity to push myself until breaking point on a regular basis. I want to be a great writer. I want to create a body of work that transcends time and genres, becoming part of literary history.

But sometimes my quest to constantly redefine and improve my craft can leave me blinded, bitter, and miserable. I can become so focused on achieving my dreams that I forget that there is an entire world of wonder and possibility around me. I need to constantly remind myself to stop focusing on my failure to be successful right now, and instead turn my attention to everything that I have already achieved and remember that there are millions of other men and women all around me who are desperately working towards their own dreams.

Things often sound so simple when you break them down to the ridiculous. You’re not alone. Sometimes you are just so focused on walking your own journey that you can’t see how many others are moving through theirs. We often sit at our desks, or on busses and trains, or even lie beside our partner in the dead and wonder why they can’t understand our dreams. We ask why they can’t see that we are struggling, or that we are hurting. We become so consumed with this idea of self that we don’t understand how anyone could ever care about anything but what is afflicting us. The sad part is that the person next to you is thinking the exact same thing.

I struggle every single day to fathom just why people don’t understand or appreciate the sacrifices that I have made to write. I’ve given up friends, relationships, careers, and almost everything else in my pursuit of greatness. But greatness isn’t achieved in the blink of an eye. It takes years of development and continuous redefining of what one considers to be great before such a entitlement can be reached. But we unfortunately live in an era where we bombarded with the idea that dreams and achievements are often realised overnight. But the honest to God truth is that this is rarely the case.

Clichéd or not; writers are creatures of great emotion. We break our hearts over and over again so that we can show the world our vulnerabilities and humanity. There’s nothing wrong with this. There is great beauty and release in allowing ourselves to be naked for the world to see.  But sometimes our extreme vulnerability can cause us to internalise our perspectives and forget that we are never really alone, no matter how much we believe otherwise. For me it took standing in a shitty public restroom that smelled like ammonia, beer, and regret to remember that.

The camaraderie that I chase through my writing might never come, but the intimacy I feel with strangers who I know are living through their own successes and failures is just as meaningful and rewarding. There’s a silver lining to every situation, and a lesson to be learned in every day. Sometimes you just have to shift your perspective away from the immediacy of your surroundings and ignore the filth and grime of the cubicle, and find that little shoebox sized window with the view of the entire city instead.

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